Public-private partnership proposed to develop pharmaceuticals.
The early stages of drug development could be freed from the shackles of intellectual property under a proposal to be tabled at a meeting of leading pharmaceutical players this week.
Amid layoffs, drying pipelines and the closure of research centres, many observers have warned that, in its current form, the pharmaceutical industry faces a troubled future. The bleak outlook seems even more so in the wake of this month’s announcements by Pfizer of plans to reduce research and development spending by as much as US$2 billion and to lay off hundreds of researchers (see’Pfizer slashes R&D‘).
Chas Bountra is trying to find a way forwards.
Bountra, who is head of the Structural Genomics Consortium at the University of Oxford, UK, has been talking to academics, research funders and industry representatives to try to get backing for his plan.
He envisions a global initiative worth about $200 million a year — half from private money and half from public and charitable sources — that would focus solely on new therapeutic targets. The initiative would rush these through to phase II clinical trials — the stage at which drugs are given to larger groups of people, but before the huge phase III trials that represent a drug’s final hurdle before reaching the market.
If drug candidates proved successful, they would then be made available for the initiative’s commercial sponsors to buy and bring to market. This Wednesday, 30 people, including high-level industry experts and academics, will meet in Toronto, Canada, to try to push the idea forwards.
“We have all this parallel activity and most of it is going to fail. I believe that [intellectual property] is slowing down science,” Bountra told a group of journalists at the Science Media Centre in London.